Today’s interviewee needs no introduction: The one and only Andreas «Neudi» Neuderth talks about The Shark and Manilla Road. Enjoy reading!
When did you meet Mark Shelton for the first time?
Neudi: We met online when I created a Manilla Road fanpage in the late nineties. I grew up being one of the few Manilla-fans here in Germany and after I haven´t heard anything of the band after The Circus Maximus (Black Dragon always sent over their newest albums for a review in my TV-Show Heavy Metal Battle), I feared that this band could get forgotten in time. This was when the internet was new in Germany. When I had added a forum to that page, all kinds of people signed up and wrote about the band. Lots of them were from Greece and Italy. Finally, Mark Shelton found the page and wrote to me… This was when a reunion as Shark (not as Manilla Road) was in the making. He was happy and surprised about the homepage. We then met at their first European show in 2000, at Bang Your Head festival, Germany. Since then we always were in contact. He sent over CDRs of the forthcoming albums and my little page became the official homepage for some years. It´s still up today, at truemetal.org.
Can you point out a special moment that you experienced with Mark Shelton?
Thousands! But of course the most important one was when he asked me to join Manilla Road, after the show at Hammer Of Doom when I was just replacing Cory Christner for that one night. There were many personal moments that I wouldn´t share in public, but also a ton of funny moments. It always felt special when he talked about my drumming in interviews or with other musicians…
What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion?
It´s hard to say. It´s the complete history, the people involved through the years, going on with a band that was not successful for over two thirds of their career. The center always was Mark Shelton, but to me the essence of the band can be heard on The Deluge. This album is the answer to that question!
What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums?
- The Deluge – my number one!
- Open the Gates
- Crystal Logic
It is hard though. When I was working on the reissues of albums like Out of the Abyss, they´ve grown a lot. So beside The Deluge as my all time fave ever, I would prefer two mix CDRs with my personal best of. I never was a huge fan of the 2000s albums but there are some songs I would add though.
What’s the most underrated Manilla Road album in your opinion?
I think that´s Mysterium! When Josh Castillo and me joined the band, I think there was something back that was missing on the 2000s albums. Mark agreed on that. It felt like a return of those Manilla Road that stopped before The Circus Maximus. There were more trademarks back than before and also the production was better than on any album of the 2000s. I don´t want to sound like I am the one who brought that change. That would be wrong, even my style might be more Manilla-like than most drummers after Randy. It was Mark and his songwriting that fitted so perfect to that new line-up. And even it was the beginning of that last and sucessful part of the career, the album was not as praised (back then) as I was hoping for.
What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks?
- «The Empire»
- «Cage of Mirrors»
- «The Quad (Masque of the Red Death by the Hammer of the Witches Brew)»
- «To Kill a King»
What’s the most underrated Manilla Road track in your opinion?
That would be «Cage of Mirrors» for me. This song is simply a masterpiece! But it also sounds like a preview of things to come… like on Crystal Logic or Open the Gates.
Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally?
Not a big surprise I guess: «Dreams of Eschaton».
What’s your favourite solo/lead played by Mark Shelton?
Hard to say… it´s all those stoned long solos on the first two albums and the demo. But I choose the opening solo of «Flaming Metal System» (not the intro, the first solo when the song has started).
Can you point out some favourite drum parts?
Again, I could name all songs from The Deluge! But I think it was «Dementia» that had the most impact on me as a drummer. Funny enough it´s the one song where I have problems understanding some seconds of the intro part… even after (!) Randy showed it to me. The Deluge was my first Manilla album, so «Dementia» was the first song I´ve ever heard. I will never forget this moment. I didn´t listen to the whole song, no, I needed to play that opening part over and over again.
How would you define the term epic metal?
I think there are epic metal bands, but many groups of other styles have their epic song or songs, too. In 2020, I made a compilation CD called The Epic Side Of Epic and some people, including some press guys, didn´t understand my intention. Of course, Manilla Road are opening that CD, but most other bands are no epic metal bands at all. But I found their epic moment! So it´s an epic metal CD with only one epic metal band on it! It´s more easy to define what thrash or glam metal is. Epic metal is not going all through on most albums. Just take the debut of Manowar. The B-side is 100% epic but side A is just some nice heavy rock (I still love it!!). To me, epic metal still needs a little underground touch. Also it´s wrong to think that epic metal means long songs only.
Are there any young bands inspired by Manilla Road that you appreciate?
There´s lots of them and some are good friends. It´s so weird when I think back to my teenager years here in Germany, feeling like being the only Manilla fan on this planet. Now you can spend an evening listening to Manilla Road cover versions. Crazy how things have changed in the last years of their (or our) career. Cirith Ungol have the same story I think, even they were inactive for many years. So there´s bands who want to capture the feeling of those groups and I like it. Honestly I like all those great bands more live than on CD or LP. For some reason, it´s the old bands that find their way on my turntable or into my CD-player. Or resissues of albums. One of the few exceptions are Coltre from England, even they sound more NWOBHM than epic.
What do you generally think of Manilla Road’s legacy and the current epic metal scene?
I am happy that I was a part of the band in those last and important years. It was great to see how the work of Mark Shelton was finally honoured by thousands and not just a few hundred. The music was always there, but it was a well-kept secret outside the underground scene. Only Open the Gates found its way to some metalheads in the eighties. Whenever we´ve played festivals like Sweden Rock, Bang Your Head, 700000 Tons Of Metal, Hellfest or Maryland Deathfest, we gained new (young) fans. And Manilla Road was not one of those «nobody needs their new albums» band. It was no retro trip at all! That all made Mark Shelton very happy. He earned the love and respect he deserved in those last years, and even now after his death. One week after Headbangers Open Air we would have played one of the bigger stages at Wacken Open Air. Manilla Road at Wacken!! That would have been unthinkable in 2000 or 2010. But the legend and the respect also came from those underground years – before and after Open the Gates and then again before Mysterium. You have to note that Crystal Logic was not a success in the eighties. It became the fan favorite in the late nineties and then through the 2000s. So people had the chance to explore a rather unknown album. Funny, one of the most important albums of a whole genre was a low budget, self-released LP. I can´t see a real epic metal scene. I see a special scene in which epic metal is an important part. As a German I love to call it the «Keep It True-scene». This festival, along with a few others worldwide, is the epicentrum of that scene. And yes, epic metal is an integral part of the taste of those people. Right now, the scene is a little divided due various reasons (US election, Corona and the measurements), but hopefully this will change one day.